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One of the weirdest debates I've ever had over mimosas at brunch involved the age-old haircare question: How often you should really wash your hair? We all had different answers and were convinced that whatever we learned was the right way. When I took the conversation over to my beauty friends, it got even more confusing, as everyone has been told one thing or another about what exactly to do when it comes to washing your hair every day.
Normally, a quick Google search is the answer to put an end to all debates, but when you search "how often should you wash your hair?" there isn't much to help you either. Instead, you'll find articles for washing it every single day or articles listing all the dangers that come with doing so. So which is it? We turned to hairstylist and owner of Gemini 14 Salon Kathy Benghanem and celebrity hairstylist Derek Yuen for their input. Their verdict? It depends. Keep reading to find out why.
How Does Shampoo Work?
We all know shampoo cleanses our scalp and hair of build-up, but Yuen breaks down what happens when the liquid is placed on our heads. "Shampoo traps dirt and oil residues, which then will rinse away." He notes, "Our scalp naturally releases oils to protect and moisturize our strands. Over-shampooing will strip too much of the necessary oils and can lead to dry, brittle hair and breakage." Finding a sulfate-free shampoo that not only cleanses but keeps the scalp pH-balanced is key. In a previous Byrdie story, Sadi Evans, a L'Oréal Professional Artist and Educator, explains that itchiness, flakiness, or dryness are indicators your pH is off. So pay attention to how your hair and scalp react post-cleanse.
How Often Should You Wash Your Hair?
"Unfortunately there is no set answer for this," says Yuen. "What it comes down to is personal preference, daily habits, hair texture, and scalp health." He does, however, caution against using shampoo too often.
Meet the Expert
Derek Yuen is a celebrity hairstylist represented by A-Frame Agency.
Benghanem agrees and says to determine how often you should wash your hair you can look at your skin type. "For example, if you have oily skin, consider washing your hair two to three times per week," she says. "If you have dry skin, only one or two times per week."
Meet the Expert
Kathy Benghanem is a hairstylist and owner of NYC-based Gemini 14 Salon.
The Cleveland Clinic takes that notion a step further and points out that, in addition to skin type and oil glands, age plays a role. They note that the younger you are, the more active your oil glands are. As such, younger people may feel the need to wash their hair more in order to avoid a messy mane. (Though it's worth noting that there are ways to train your hair to need to be washed less).
Another thing to consider? Your lifestyle. No matter your age, find a routine that makes your hair feel soft and healthy. For example, Yuen says if you work up a sweat with workouts every day and can't stand the feeling of oily or sweaty hair, you'll end up probably shampooing every day. To decrease oil production, Benghanem suggests keeping your hands out of your hair and over-brushing. She also says dry shampoo can be your best friend when used correctly.
Does Hair Texture Play a Role in How Often You Should Wash?
The most important factor to consider in terms of determining how often to wash your hair seems to be hair texture. Depending on what kind of hair you have—thick or thin; straight, wavy, or curly; brittle, coarse, or silky—you can either go without washing for a day or two or need to stick to a more consistent routine.
"In general, thicker, coarser hair, as well as curly hair, can go a couple of days without washing. Because curls and coarser hair tend to be a bit drier, it takes a longer amount of time for your oils to spread out and coat the hair," Yuen says. "Depending on the time it takes for each individual, you could go anywhere from two days without washing to even just once a week."
If you have thin fine hair, you may want to consider washing it every day. "Finer textures most often need to be washed every day, as the natural oils will spread faster and you can probably see and feel it over the strands," he says.
Find Products That Work for You (and Your Hair)
We're learning more and more that if you want healthy hair (not to mention hair that can go longer between rinses), you must take care of your scalp. To make sure your scalp is getting the moisture and nutrients it needs, Yuen explains that you must curate your own cocktail of hair products.
"The key to getting clean hair is to find the right combination of shampoo, conditioner, and product for your hair," he says. "Almost all shampoos and conditioners are labeled with guides for which texture it is best for. You can also try adding powders and dry shampoos to your arsenal if you don't want to wash every day. Experiment with how long you can personally go without washing and see what you feel is best."
The Final Takeaway
Research states that how often you wash your hair ultimately comes down to length, culture, sex, social pressures, economics, and more, making it highly subjective. And we couldn't agree more. We're all about the method of finding your own preference when it comes to washing your hair. So you go on and do you.
Cleveland Clinic. The dirty truth about washing your hair. Updated August 14, 2018.
Asifa N, Kusagur MS, SugaReddy. Prevalent practices and perceptions in hair cleansing. Int J Trichology. 2017;9(3):136-137. doi:10.4103/ijt.ijt_41_16